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Ruling Might Be Final Note for Home Business

June 10, 2003|Dave McKibben | Times Staff Writer

A judge on Monday ruled that a Laguna Hills woman's home-based musical instrument repair business violates building and zoning codes.

Judge Kim G. Dunning's tentative decision in the city's favor, if confirmed, effectively would end Rebecca Apodaca's 3-year-old dispute with Laguna Hills over the right to run her repair and rental shop in a residential neighborhood. A second phase of the trial, to consider a countersuit by Apodaca seeking damages, could be heard before a jury next month. The judge had consolidated the two cases.

But Dunning's ruling gave Apodaca's attorney, David Flyer, little reason to believe there would any grounds for damages.

"This woman has been operating a legitimate business for 25 years," Flyer said. "She doesn't have the ability to pick up and change careers."

Dunning said Apodaca, a 49-year-old single mother, violated city zoning codes by operating a retail business out of her garage and home.

"There is a cliche that a woman's home is her castle," Dunning said. "But that doesn't give her the right to run a retail business out of her home."

The dispute began in 2000 when Laguna Hills began asking Apodaca to comply with its codes after officials said they got complaints from neighbors. The city took legal action last year. Apodaca counter-sued, seeking $15 million in damages and the right to continue operating.

During the trial, Flyer portrayed Apodaca as a model citizen who was being unfairly singled out by the city.

In addition to her zoning violations, Dunning said, Apodaca broke fire and safety codes by operating in a garage with inadequate ventilation.

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